Canadian men's national team coach John Herdman held court with the media on Saturday morning, shedding some light on his decisions after revealing the 24-man squad that will convene in the United States for Canada's upcoming World Cup qualifying games against Aruba and Suriname. The prevailing theme, apparently, is optimism, with a very strong group of players involved. "Talking about the guys that are committed and focused, it's an exciting group," Herdman told reporters. "I think we've got pace, we've got power, we've got experience in key parts of the field, and [Milan] Borjan in net. I think we've got a good balance across this team, and again, we've got a young group. "The experience, I think if you look at the caps some will think you're maybe lacking that sort of experience but these games, what this team needs is that growth in Concacaf together, so I'm excited to bring it in and unleash it in these two matches."

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With Jonathan David returning to the national team setup for the first time since 2019, he'll be a key part of Canada's attack alongside Cyle Larin and Alphonso Davies, after the trio completed excellent seasons at the club level. Herdman kept his cards close to the vest on just how exactly he sees his attackers playing together, but he suggested he's got a few tricks up his sleeve. "[Larin and David] know how to score goals, so it's about the supporting cast, and finding ways to allow them to use the spaces that they need to use to create those moments -- to enter the box late, to arrive off players," Herdman said. "I think what you've seen with Cyle, he has a different instinct to Jonathan in the box. I think Jonathan has a bit more flexibility in the way he can play out wide, central, play off players. I think Cyle, for us, he's just that ultimate predator. He's a person that you really need to get service to, and we'll find those ways -- without giving too many of the tactics away." A few players are, of course, missing from this squad; Kamal Miller, for instance, is injured, as is Atiba Hutchinson, while Scott Arfield elected not to join Canada for matches in June after a busy club season. Hutchinson's appearance in the squad last March was a bit of a surprise after some time away from the squad, but Herdman offered that the veteran midfielder is very much still part of the picture. "Atiba's conversation is always around his body and what he can physically commit to," Herdman explained, revealing that Hutchinson's hamstring injury from the last week of his club season would still be nagging him. He added: "He wants to commit to one more season; he's got a Champions League coming up, and in his mind he sees Canada getting through these games and putting us into an Octagon, which he's fully committed to, supporting the team as we push it to that next level." As for Arfield, the door isn't closed to a return for him either. "He's open-minded around his international career," Herdman said. "He really needed that time this year to focus on winning the league with Rangers and his family... "I think Scott will join the program again at the right time. So it's an ongoing conversation, or at some point he makes the decision to retire, but he's not at that stage yet. I think he's hoping that we can get through this next round, and he's got the monkey off his back with his Rangers title and now he can probably spread his attention." With the two games against Aruba and Suriname almost must-win affairs in order for Canada to top their group and continue to the next World Cup qualifying stage, Herdman pointed out that plenty of details need to be worked out. He confirmed that part of the reason Canada Soccer is choosing to host Suriname in Chicago rather than Florida is the more temperate climate, adding that any minor advantage could be useful -- particularly with Suriname entering the game with an extra day's rest. The defending will be of particular importance for Canada against Suriname, especially with some inexperienced players in the squad and not many combinations that have played together -- in fact, only Steven Vitória and Doneil Henry have lined up together in a Canada kit of the centre-backs available here. "I think as a collective when you look at that centre-back group, right at the core of this we've got some experienced warriors who are gonna die for this cause, and then we've got some young guys that will reveal their potential in some big moments," Herdman said. "I'd love to be calling on a group of guys that have been there, done it, and seen everything in the red shirt. But this is where we're at and I believe in this group. I've got a feeling they're gonna raise their game at a critical time." Herdman's optimism will soon be tested, with a match against Aruba on June 5 followed swiftly by a likely group-deciding clash against Suriname on June 8 (both on OneSoccer).

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